Wisdom, Wit, and Weirdness

I can't tell the wit, wisdom and weirdness apart, so you will have to figure it out yourself.

4/02/02 Art Online
Every two years the Whitney Museum puts on their Bienneial Exposition -- always a good perspective on modern American art. You can see some of it on their website (although I find their server painfully slow.)

But even better is the "counter biennial" web site There is a lot of interesting stuff here, note that most pictures are animated and so you need to click to the larger image to see that actual work. Many are also interactive so try moving and clicking your mouse.

8/13/01 Just When You were Starting to Understand It
All you really need to know for the moment is that the universe is a lot more complicated than you might think, even if you start from a position of thinking it's pretty damn complicated in the first place.
Douglas Adams in Mostly Harmless

04/26/01 Second Childhood
Many children fall in love with dinosaurs and it is a moment of great disappointment when they realize that extinct means "gone forever." But new discoveries reported in The New York Times show clear evidence of a feathered theropod. What could be a better fulfillment of a childhood dream? The dinosaurs didn't disappear, they just grew wings and hid in the trees!
(drawing by; Mick Ellison, American Museum of Natural History)
feathered dinosaur

4/20/01 Public Domain Pictures
If you want to build an honest website, pictures and other graphics can present a problem. It is hard to distinguish what is private property (almost everything) and what is free for public use. Joyce Valenza, a rather amazing librarian at Springfield High School, has compiled this list of links to free images.

4/23/01 Warning: This Site does not function correctly.
This site does not respond to email

I do not recommend the use of this site.
4/6/01 Fight Cancer with Your Computer's Spare Time
Make your machine part of the http://www.ud.com/ Oxford University project to evaluate cancer drugs. This project uses the extra processing power of computers around the world to evaluate possible cancer fighting chemicals. Download a small program to run on your machine. Your computer treats the program like a screen saver (it runs when you aren't using the machine.) Then when you connect to the internet it reports its results automatically. By using thousands of machines all over the world the researchers create a virtual supercomputer.

03/20/01 We have a New Winner!
Revised 02/20/02 -- We have NO winner
My "Excessive Use of Cookies Contest" lost its former leader when Colgate-Palmolive, revised their website so that instead of setting 119 cookies they only set one

Help our lonesome mascot -- send in cookie abusers award

02/08/01 Web Page Awards
Revised 04/03/02
awardDoes your web page deserve an award?
Here is a site where you can download
you choice of awards to to give to yourself.
Woops -- this site seems to have disappeared! But here is a link to what seems to be an archive of all of their graphics TheCorporation Awards File

02/07/01 Advanced Sources for Undergraduates
I asked Joel Bonvicini, a Senior in IST, to identify web sites that he thought made particularly good resources for IST students who wanted to go more deeply into course-related topics.
He did such a good job that I have simply posted his work without modification.
Sources for Students

11/3/00 Web Resource
Here are some useful ways of dealing with addresses on the internet.
to do IP look up from domain names
to do Domain Name look up from IP
Addition: The above sites may not trace non U.S. connections -- here is a more comprehensive one:

12/12/99 A Quote
"What problem can there be that is so hard that it will not dissolve
in a sufficiently strong solution of nonsense?"

David Stove
Popper and After, Ch 3

06/30/99 Evaluating Web Content
A great instructional set of pages to get users to think critically about what they find on the web. A product of Dr. Eva Thury, in Drexel's Dept. of Humanities and communication.
Critical Thinking About the Web
There are also lots of other wonderful things on this site -- a lot of mythology, extensive links in html creation and web content writing,and much more. Trace them from her home page
Eva Thury Home Page

05/10/99 Sounds like my job.
A scientist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has been assigned the job of
covering a dead 60 ton whale with horse manure so microorganisms can eat away
the remaining flesh to produce a skeleton for future study.
(Philadelphia Inquirer, May 10, 1999)

01/18/99 the 2000 computer bug
This picture has disappeared!
Louis Haas, a student here at Drexel sent the following URL. Definitely a great animated comentaty on y2k bugs and people hold forth about them. http://www.thesitefights.com/wepatrol/mil_bug.gif

01/18/99 Cookie Rant
Here is Drexel University trying to set a cookie that will hang around on your machine until 2034. Of course they don't want to set such a long lived cookie, it is just that their software gives them a mindless default.

2034 -- An interesting year. Consider that it is 35 years in the future. To start with let's look 35 years into the past -- 1963

No PCs, mainframes rule the world. IBM has just announced System/360 and the fastest computer in the world is CDC's 6600, designed by Seymour Cray, and performing 3 million instructions per second! (Who would ever need that much power?) If you wait two years the DEC PDP-8 minicomputer will be available!

No networking. Dial-up communications are 120 Baud. Tape files in formats that you cannot now read. Punch cards are the standard for input. Operating system interface is IBM JCL. (I still have my manuals, but can't find a machine that uses it.) Only two programmers in the world know BASIC, Thomas Kurtz and John Kemeny. Even they are not too sure about it since they won't finish inventing BASIC until 1964.

In brief, a world of computing almost nothing like the present. And a world with which all present organizations (except museums) have abandoned all compatibility.

SO -- let me modestly suggest that there are smarter ways to use cookies.

Readers: Join the Rational Cookies Crusade.
Email your longest lasting cookie to drott@drexel.edu. Include the url where you found it!

I also have a category for most cookies set by one page. For example:

Internet Profiles Corporation(I/PRO) at their home page -- gives you about 40 cookie attempts!
http://www.ipro.com/ UPDATE:This site seems to be dead! The URL tries to set two cookies and then links you to a site that sets no cookies. You don't suppose that there IS justice in the world?
By the way, a single cookie can be 1k bytes -- why would anyone want 46k of your disk space?

10/04/98 Taking COBOL
Student Question:
I am preparing to go out on my first Co-op and at the same time I am in the process of pre-registering for next term. I found a programming course on COBOL and I was wondering what type of language it actually was and how important it was in the eyes of employers? Also, is it a powerful language and is it a fun language to play around with?

My Response:
COBOL ranks right up there with Ancient Greek and Latin in the category of "dead languages which hardly nobody speaks anymore"

Invented in the late 1950s as a "user friendly" language it flourished as a language for business applications for nearly 25 years, but has been replaced by much more modern languages -- especially objected oriented ones.

COBOL would deserve to be a footnote to a textbook chapter on computer history among with such favorites as Mad, Algol, and Jovial (none of which you ever heard of) except for one thing -- there is still a lot of COBOL code out there in use in business applications.

This code exists because businesses have been too cheap (and IMHO foolishly short sighted) to upgrade their programs. BUT, two factors keep COBOL in demand. 1) There are still many companies who are not ready to bite the multi-million dollar bullet and replace their antique code. They have to keep their COBOL running and that means maintenance programmers. 2) The year 2000 is coming. Since COBOL is old, a lot of the non-compliant code is in COBOL and it pretty much has to be fixed.

As a result experienced COBOL programmers can attract high salaries (because there aren't many of them.) For a 55 year old programmer who is good at COBOL this means that they can finish their their careers making as much as $100k per year.

But COBOL programmers don't get to work on new programming challenges or state of the art systems (because nobody is crazy enough to use COBOL for new system development.)

Take the case of Greek. The last classical Greek was written about 700-900 A.D.(and the bulk of it a thousand years earlier), thus people who know Greek are in demand especially in jobs where the developments of the last 1,300 years are of minor interest. Get the picture?

To build a future rather than a past, take Java.

10/04/98 Email Hoaxes
This topic has been so popular that its link is now on my home page

8/20/98 Web Design
I have long admired the work of David Siegel and here's a reference to hisTips for Web Writers and Designers -- so good I wish I'd written them! You can look at lots of his other stuff through his Home Page. I must say I'm not fond of this particular site design, but perhaps he knows better than me. In any case, he asks that visitors start here.

5/6/98 Anagrams
Here is another suggestion from Laurie Shuster. I wish I knew who to give credit to but it is lost in the mists of forwarded email. The comments below were there when I got it.

Devilishly clever!

Who ever took the time? Or did they have a word/phrase-finding
computer program to help them.

An anagram, as we all know, is a word or phrase made by
transposing or rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. The following
examples are quite astounding!

Dormitory == Dirty Room
Evangelist == Evil's Agent
Desperation == A Rope Ends It
The Morse Code == Here Come Dots
Slot Machines == Cash Lost in 'em
Animosity == Is No Amity
Mother-in-law == Woman Hitler
Snooze Alarms == Alas! No More Z's
Alec Guinness == Genuine Class
Semolina == Is No Meal
The Public Art Galleries == Large Picture Halls, I Bet
A Decimal Point == I'm a Dot in Place
The Earthquakes == That Queer Shake
Eleven plus two == Twelve plus one
Contradiction == Accord not in it

This one's amazing:

[From Shakespeare's "Hamlet"]

To be or not to be: that is the question, whether tis nobler in
the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
In one of the Bard's best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent
hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten.

And the grand finale:

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
-- Neil A. Armstrong
A thin man ran; makes a large stride; left planet, pins flag
on moon! On to Mars!

4/1/98 -- One of my students with a great ear for the absurd has been collecting computer related orders and requests from his management.
Welcome to the real world, or as Jon calls it: The Tar Pit

Please: Jon has asked that people who want to pass these on, reference his web page rather than copy and distribute the material in other ways. Thanks.

3/13/98 -- Thirty Years 'till you see it up close!
See the "planet killer" asteroid moving through space in this animated GIF.
The University of Washington and the Astrophysical Research Consortium

3/11/98 -- Slogans for "Motivational" Posters

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.

Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings, they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

If something doesn't feel right, you're not feeling the right thing.

adapted from the Dilbert pages

2/26/98 -- Excuses Given in School
"If it weren't for tomorrow you would have gotten your papers back today."

Said by me, voted into this page by my I503 class.

2/25/98 A Great Web Design Site
User Interface Engineering looked at people using real web sites, and generalized good design principles from their observations. Wonderfully sensible, not to mention intelligently written. I recommend it highly.

From Tom Wieckowski in the College of Business:
Response from the audience at Fortune 500 CIO Forum in Aspen when asked to suggest a new CEO for Apple Computer.
[ Information Week, 1/5/98]


Evaluating Web Sites

The Website Garage is a clever idea for bringing in customers for your design services by doing free website evaluations.

I discovered that my home page loads commendably fast, that the use of HTML is good and that there are no broken links. Their analysis disliked my spelling, but mostly because of my name, some rather standard abbreviations, and my intentional use of leading edge spelling in things like making website one lower case word. They overated me in terms of counting sites that link to me by counting many of my own self links.

Try it on any website, not just your own. You'll learn something!



From a survey of incoming Drexel freshmen:
38% report a high school average of "A."
78% say that they are in the top 10% in academic ability.
(but surprisingly few are from Lake Wobegon)

15% watched more than 10 hours of TV a week
14% spent more than 10 hours a week studying
(perhaps not the same students)

49% will end their schooling a Masters degree
20% will finish with Ph.D.s
(but only 0.2% want to be college teachers)

41% of the men expect to become engineers
17% of the women expect a career in engineering
(fortunately, no one expects to be a school principal or college administrator)

Reason for Attending College
The most frequent is "get a better job" (84%)
Second is "make more money" (81%)
But third is "learn more about things" (77%)

Note: I thought about making this page a lot more graphically interesting, but I decided that I wanted fast loading more. I wanted something people could check regularly without a wait. I also decided to let the list get fairly long before moving it to an archive page -- another reason to limit graphics.
Who made this strange page? [Home]
This page is at: http://drott.cis.drexel.edu/wisdom/wisdom.html